Look around you. How are people getting through their work day? Is someone taking regular 15-minute breaks away from his desk or is that someone by the whiteboard scribbling a to-do list for their day? No matter how big or small the work teams, much like a fingerprint, no two people every work in the same way. And if you pay attention long enough you will realize everybody has got a productivity style of their own that helps them get by.
‘No personal productivity style is alike and that’s okay’, says Carson Tate author of Work Simply: Embracing the Power of Your Personal Productivity Style. And no matter how many books you consume or seminars you attend, trying to replicate popularly preached principles of productivity isn’t all that easy and, discouragingly enough, unsuccessful 3 out of 5 times.
The reason: There is no one catchall rule to productivity.
There is no such thing as the perfect productivity principle. ‘One-size fit all’ tendency just does not work.
Howard Moskowitz, a world-renowned psychophysicist from Harvard best regarded for his study of horizontal segmentation, took up the ambitious cause of determining the ‘perfect Pepsi’. After endless hours of going back and forth with his skewed data he figured he was asking the wrong question all this time. There was no such thing as the perfect Pepsi. There are only perfect Pepsi’s’. Why: Our view of what’s perfect varies from person to person, experience to experience.
Much the similar way, there are no universals when it comes to productivity. No ideals; no one grand productivity formula.
However it bodes well to seek out productivity styles that suit our individual thought processes. Why? Because the way we choose to perceive and process information has tremendous impact on the success or failure of our work. How we learn, think, talk and make sense of information all contributes to how we approach tasks at hand. And so no matter how much we try to adapt our ways to fit an ‘ideal’ work system, our actions are still superseded by our preferences to do things in a certain way or in a way we know we are good at.
Four styles of productivity
In her book, Tate talks about four personal productivity styles. Now, everyone has all four styles within them but much like our preference for a certain kind of a Pepsi, we all incline to one style quite dominantly.
According to Tate, a Prioritizer is one whose thinking is linear and very logical. Being data oriented agrees with these people and they actively seek goal fulfillment. A Planner is someone who has a flair for organization and appreciates detail. These are the people who swear by their to-do list and kanban boards, and very methodical in their approach to tasks. An Arranger is one who is reactive by nature and responds to situations as they occur. Practical and with leader-like qualities, Arrangers tend to be the ones who direct the course of activities and almost always have a template-tized approach to handling tasks. Finally, a Visualizer is someone you actively pursues lateral thought, great at imagining different scenarios, and even better at putting together different ideas into one. They are solution oriented and not afraid to take chances.
Macroscopically speaking, you become keenly aware of your strengths and weaknesses. If (through an assessment) you understand that you are an Arranger — someone who responds to things as per the situation — then you can actively seek out work that agrees with this kind of a thought process. Instead, if you are made a part of team which has more Prioritizers (data driven individuals) it will only increase friction between the team members and no good can come out of that.
Additionally, being keenly aware of productivity styles of others helps build a highly empathetic work ecosystem. If you know your team member is a Planner, answering the “How” of things makes for a better interaction. If your manager is a Prioritizer, then a pro-data conversation is what will possibly find its way to you. And answering the “Why” may just get you in the good books of a Visualizer
Once you know your productivity style, start by getting organized. Put your work schedules and timelines in order and become consciously aware of how much time and effort to expel to tasks allotted to you. Adopt work management tools to help you prioritize tasks for yourself and between your team members. If you work on a shared project management system, then tracking progress of a task is much easier and outcomes are accounted for at every step.
Equip yourself with the right kind of tools to keep you at your most productive self.
Once you know your task priorities, establish how you will manage each of the tasks. Do not become a victim of your time. Own up to it. If there’s a meeting you have been called to while you are busy working, evaluate the importance of both and choose wisely. Remember its ok to say NO and put things on your priority list for a later time.
Your attitude towards your own time can make a world of difference in doing a good job.
Finally, know your most productive hours. No human is capable of working with full throttle at all hours of the day. If you know when you are at your creative best, take that as the basis for scheduling tasks. If mornings cut it for you, then schedule all important meetings at that hour of the day. If evenings see your energy levels slumping then allot these ours for attending to simpler tasks.
Line up your work as per your energy levels throughout the day.